MUSKEGON, MI - It's not often a hockey team gets to skate on a power play off of a major penalty.
Muskegon got the opportunity early in the 2nd period Friday to score as many goals as it could on the ensuing power play and took advantage to the tune of a pair of goals.
The Lumberjacks took their first lead of the game thanks to those power play markers, and kept the momentum the rest of the way for an 8-2 win over Youngstown in front of 2,356 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.
Muskegon won its third straight to improve to 11-1. Youngstown dropped its first game in regulation in the last five to fall to 4-7-0-2.
The two teams will meet again Saturday night again in Muskegon.
The Lumberjacks have now won all four meetings against the Phantoms even though the Phantoms have played them very competitively.
The final score may not indicate it, but that trend continued early Friday as Youngstown collected the lone goal of the first period, courtesy of Brett Murray's power play tally at 15:35. Youngstown has been great with the man advantage this season, coming in at 28 percent and 2nd in the USHL, but the goal snapped an 0-for-14 power play streak against Muskegon.
The game began to turn the Lumberjacks way though when Youngstown forward Josh DeLuca butt-ended Muskegon forward Jagger Joshua, which earned DeLuca both a 5-minute major penalty and a game misconduct, with 46 seconds left in the first period.
Joshua was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the same time, so the teams skated 4-on-4 into the early parts of the second period. Mikael Hakkarainen took advantage of the extra room to pounce on a rebound and fire it home for the hosts and a 1-all tie.
That was the beginning of a huge night for Hakkarainen, who scored three goals and notched an assist to stay red-hot for Muskegon.
Craig Needham scored his third shorthanded goal of the season, all against Muskegon, at 1:52 to regain the lead for Youngstown at 2-1.
It proved to be short-lived, however, as the Lumberjacks found their groove on the extended power play.
Alex Gaffney deflected a shot past Youngstown goalie Christian Stoever at 3:02 of the second period. Colby Bukes and Nash Nienhuis drew the assists. Just 55 seconds later Hakkarainen struck again with a big slapshot off a pass from Bobby Lynch, and it was 3-2 Muskegon. Christoffer Bjork drew the secondary assist.
Egor Afanasyev finished the big period for the Lumberjacks with his sixth goal of the season. His rebound goal allowed Daniel Hilsendager to earn his first point of the season. He was the only Lumberjack to play in more than one game without a point until the assist.
Muskegon goalie Brandon Bussi improved to 11-1 on the season with 22 saves on 24 Youngstown shots. His biggest stop came three minutes into the third period on a mini breakaway after a Muskegon turnover to keep it at 4-2.
The Lumberjacks finished the rest of the game strong, scoring four third period goals. Matthew Staudacher connected shortly after Bussi's big save, and Nolan Sullivan, James McIsaac and Hakkarainen all found the net in the final 20 minutes.
McIsaac finished off a beautiful 2-on-1 with Owen Farris, and Hakkarainen's was his fourth point of the game and finished off his hat trick.
Muskegon outshot the guests 34-24, and totaled four power play goals on five chances. Youngstown went 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
Lynch, Afanasyev, Bjork and Gaffney all recorded multiple points in addition to Hakkarainen.
Stoever took his first regulation loss with the Phantoms, who acquired the goalie less than two weeks ago. He was pulled after giving up his seventh goal for Jon Mor, who was saddled with Youngstown's first three losses against the Lumberjacks this season. Mor gave up one goal Friday.